Saturday, 30 January 2010

Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining's latest Business News

Here is this weeks business news from BigFish Media Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining:

WITH WINGS?
For technical bods, this week was probably marked with a great big red ‘X’ on their calendars. Apple finally revealed their latest gizmo. It looks remarkably similar to the iPhone, but will appeal to those who prefer to read their books on screen rather than paper. Cyber chatter was mainly concerned with guessing its name. Steve Jobs rejected the popular ‘iTab’ going for ‘iPad’ instead. Unkind critics have likened the moniker to a female sanity product.

STORE
Storage companies have been doing well during the recession. We’ve been placing far more of our worldly possession into their care. It seems homeowners trapped in a stagnant property market have been freeing up space while they hunt around for a larger home to move into. Other top reasons include clearing out a spare room for a lodger, or sorting out a sitting room to use as a home office.

AMAZING AMAZON
We all know that we’re doing more shopping online, but I for one was very surprised at the sheer volume of online sales at Amazon this Christmas. The retailer revealed a huge 70% rise in profits. On one day alone in the festive period, they took two million orders – that’s the equivalent of 23 every second. I imagine many high street retailers are desperately trying to think of a way to get us off the mouse and through the door instead.

FLYBE OR NOT FLYBE
2009 is now on record as the toughest year for the airline industry. A fall-off in business travel, and the effect of the ‘stay-cation’ bit hard into the big airliners. FlyBe though have a reason to be feeling rather smug. Their figures showed an increase in passenger numbers. They also carried more UK domestic travelers than any other airline.

GOING FOR GOLDMAN
And finally, the UK officially exited recession this week, although if you’re struggling with jobs, mortgages and bills, it’s a technicality that may not give you much cause for celebration. The City was expecting a GDP increase of between 0.2 and 0.4%. In the end we all had to settle for 0.1%. Spare a thought for analysts at Goldman Sachs though – they’d forecast an eye-watering 0.7% growth figure. One prediction I’m sure they’d like to brush under the carpet.

Sasha Twining is LBC 97.3's Business Correspondent. You can hear her Monday-Friday between 4 and 7pm on the James Whale Programme.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Business news from Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining

Here is this weeks business news from BigFish Media Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining:

Five things to get you through the weekend dinner parties.

BARACK ATTACK
This was the week Obama took a stand against the banks and said he was in the mood for a fight. It seemed like the market took flight, with both the FTSE and DOW falling considerably. If he gets his way, the big banks will be split and won’t be able to use our money in their financial investment arms. Plus, we’ll all have another phrase to add to our recession phrase books – ‘The Glass Steagall Act’.

I SHOULD COCOA
We were all trying to come up with chocolate-themed puns this week, as the long running saga between Cadbury and Kraft appeared to come to a rather ‘sticky’ end. The best we could do was Kraft ‘sweetening the deal’ with Cadbury workers ‘left with a bitter taste’. In other words, the American company decided to up their offer at the 11th hour and the board at Cadbury agreed to the figures. Up to 6,000 people work for the British chocolate makers in the UK and, at the moment, there’s no guarantee for long-term job security.

KRAFTY MANOUEVRE
Staying with the Cadbury takeover, eyebrows were raised when it emerged the Royal Bank of Scotland would be part-financing the Kraft bid. Many were outraged at a British bank, with a majority taxpayer share, stumping up the cash for a deal that could possibly result in job losses. Others more sagely reckoned that if RBS are left to do their job, we’ll get our money back quicker.

WE'RE LOVING IT
It seems we were all partial to a burger or two in the recession. McDonalds said they had a record breaking year – with their UK outlets beating all other major markets. They’ve put it down to credit crunching budget menus, and a refresh of some of their restaurants. Not only are more of us deciding ‘we’re loving it’, but we’re also ‘loving it’ in greater quantities.

BUR BUR BUR, BUR BUR-BERRY
Luxury is back in fashion. At least it is for Burberry. Their latest figures showed a very strong Christmas in London, boosted by tourists taking advantage of the weak pound. Burberry bosses possibly have the 1980s fashion favourte ‘The Snood’ to thank as well. Figures suggest the re-invented cross between a hood and a scarf was a firm festive favorite.


Sasha Twining
is LBC 97.3's Business Correspondent. You can hear her Monday-Friday between 4 and 7pm on the James Whale Programme.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

How to find a Voiceover Artist

What do you normally do when your client comes to you and asks you to find them a Voiceover Artist?

Do you point them towards an agency and let them get on with it? Perhaps you suggest hiring the voice you hired last time, to save the trouble?

Or maybe you panic about the best way forward, perhaps even by trying to convince them that they don’t need one for their project, and that it’s strong enough to “speak for itself”?

If any of the above seems familiar then you’re not alone, but it doesn’t have to be quite like that. In the same way that technology has revolutionised the business of making video in the last decade, that same technology has seen a quiet revolution in the world of the Voiceover Artist.

The equipment to produce professional audio doesn’t cost what it once did, and this has meant that more “voices” than ever are working from home studios and marketing themselves either outside, or as well as, traditional artiste/agency relationships. I know because I’m one of them.

Voiceover Artists all over the world now use the internet to find, or attract, work, whether through their own websites like BigFish Media, or via one of the online casting directories like voiceovers.co.uk.

If your client is on a budget, then cutting out both the agency fees, and the time and cost of taking your talent into a production facility with an engineer, could make an attractive difference to the balance sheet. Not only that, but the quality of the finished audio might well surprise you.

Of course you need to do your homework. The lower the bar of entry, the more any profession becomes attractive to those who don’t necessarily possess the skills to do it justice.

But the beauty of the internet is that you and your client can check out what you’re likely to get back before you engage a voiceover talent. You can even ask for a sample as an audition.

Most voiceover artists will be happy to record a part of your script and deliver it in a format of your choice. If you get them to do that, then you’ll know exactly the quality of the end product, including the voiceover artist’s delivery, technical quality and editing skills.

What should you expect to pay? Well, the price range varies hugely. On some casting sites you might be lucky and pay well under the £200 or so that’s still perceived to be the ballpark hourly rate you’d pay for taking your talent into a studio.

But make sure you do that homework: if you don’t, then that £45 voiceover track that seemed like such a bargain at the time might not turn out to be all it promised.

It’s still true that in voiceovers – as in life – you generally get what you pay for. Buy cheap, buy twice. And if you’re paying £200 for your voiceover artist, but not paying the traditional associated costs on top, that is still a huge saving.

Check that your agreed rate includes things such as preparation time, session fees, studio costs, de-breathing editing and file transfer. BigFish Media will do all these for you.

Check the talent’s policy on re-takes or amendments in case there’s anything that you or your client aren’t happy with. Don’t be afraid to ask for a written quote. And make sure you have agreed any usage fees, if appropriate.

It’s true that not every project needs a voiceover, but the next time that one does, take heart: With a bit of care, and with the help of the internet, Voiceover Artists from all over the world are now well within your reach.

Purple Apple Awards Voiceover Man to return.

Ricky Salmon is delighted to have been booked for the fourth time as the voiceover man for this year's Purple Apple Awards Ceremony in London in May.

It will be the third time that Ricky has worked with his BBC Radio 2 colleague Claudia Winkleman; they previously hosted the event in 2007 and 2009.

In 2006 Ricky Salmon had an on-stage role with Toyah Wilcox and also had the pleasure of visiting her at her home in Warwickshire.

The Purple Apples celebrate the best marketing campaigns of the year from managers of Shopping Centres across the UK.

Other news this week...

You can now hear Richard Cartridge's voiceover for BBC1's Football Focus. Or you can watch the video by clicking on Richard's Videos

Ricky Salmon is the voiceover of three new health and safety videos for Wilkinson stores. Ricky Salmon is the voiceover of on-hold telephone messages for www.pastduecredit.co.uk.

Ricky Salmon is the voiceover for an Induction Video for Centrica's Langage Energy Centre in Plymouth.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining's Business News

Here is this weeks business news from BigFish Media Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining:

BITTEN BY A SHARK
Really shocking statistics came out this week about loan sharks. It seems that they are sadly profiting from the recession. A hundred thousand families turned to them just before Christmas, borrowing a total of £29million. The average loan was just under £300, which sounds almost manageable, until you realize that equates to £820 after the interest is added.

DRIVING UP THE PRICES
I think I’ll be taking a course in fuel-efficient driving after my last trip to fill up the car. Petrol prices reached an eye-watering high this week. On average, a litre of petrol will now cost you £1.12. That’s up 25p on this time last year. It’s worth noting that the further north you go, the lower the prices. However I’m not sure how cost-effective it is to make the weekly trip to Hull though.

OX-FAIL GROUP
Spare a thought for Oxfam in the recession. They’ve revealed that their sales are up, but donations are down by a whopping 15%. It seems that we’re turning to eBay to flog our goods and pocket the cash instead. The bad weather hasn’t helped either – it’s been easier to log on to auction sites than battle the snow and ice to donate at the high street shop.

PRIME POSITION
Whatever they’re doing, Primark is doing it well. They released their Christmas trading figures this week and unveiled a huge rise - sales up nearly 20% on last year. They’re not the only ones celebrating the festive season. The owner of Currys and PC World revealed that a TV or PC was sold every other second.

I DON'T FEEL LIKE DANCIN'
You can be forgiven for thinking that everyone was out having a festive boogie in December, but actually nightclubs are having a tough time of it. Luminar, the UK’s biggest club owner, had a poor Christmas. They’re suffering because their target age group, the 18-24 year olds, are facing high unemployment. Club bosses have revealed they are planning a tie-up with HMV, the record store, which may mean we see far more live music in nightclubs.

Sasha Twining is LBC 97.3's Business Correspondent. You can hear her Monday-Friday between 4 and 7pm on the James Whale Programme.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Writing a Voiceover Script

The success of your podcast or radio and TV commercials will largely depend on your voiceover script. Composing an effective voiceover script that gets results is not like writing print ads for publication or online advertisements.

You shoud be "writing for the ear, not the eye". Writing for the ear entails writing in a conversational manner. This technique requires short and concisely written messages. This technique may look unusual initially, but you'll produce very effective messages as you get used to it.

Here are some techniques you can immediately apply to improve things for your voiceover artist:

State everything in the active voice. Using the active voice in your script will make your ad seem to talk to its listeners in real time. This technique can create instantaneous credibility and rapport with your listeners.

Use a popshield to protect the microphone. If your voiceover script contains a lot of words that begin with the letters 'P', 'B' and 'T', the talent may have difficulty reading the sentence without distorting it. A popshield can help eliminate this problem and help them deliver a more smooth-sounding sentence.

Mark up the voiceover copy for inflection. Marking certain words in bold, highlighting parts of the copy or using something simple like underlining can really help your voiceover artist understand the gist of the message and deliver a quality piece. Read the copy out loud yourself to identify what parts of the sentence you want to emphasize, then mark up the copy so that the voiceover artist understands exactly what you need.

Write down phone numbers in word form. Numbers are also words that would need to be read. Spell each number so that you can detect if there are any blockages to your script's overall impact. Be prepare to edit your script if any part sounds inappropriate.

Instantly grab your listeners' attention. Headlines are what lure audiences to listen to any advertisement. Your headline will serve as an opening to your ad's body. A great headline would be composed of less than ten words and contain at least one compelling benefit or statement.

Since a voiceover artist will be delivering the copy, the writer of the script will need to account for breathing and their overall tone and personality. Once you have selected your voice over talent, you may need to tweak the script slightly so that it flows with the talent's strongest skills and abilities. Make sure you're developing a strong and persuasive script using these guidelines, and give the voiceover talent plenty of time to practice so that you can modify your script as needed.

Writing off Voiceover Bad Debts

If your day-to-day voiceover billing system is in order then collections can be a very easy process. Most voice-over artists waste time dealing with collections because they are not prepared to collect late payments. That part is easy to fix. What may not be so easy to fix is your mindset about collections. Never assume that a client is going to pay you on time.

Clear Policy

Firstly, have a clear policy regarding clients who fail to pay for their voice-overs in a timely manner. This policy should be available on your website or by request. Make sure that all new clients receive a copy of this policy along with their first invoice. You may even want to ask them to sign and return it or otherwise acknowledge that they received it.

A typical policy might state:

All first time clients are expected to pay in advance of the first voice-over.

After first successful payment, clients will automatically have a 30 day credit system to use for placing future voice-overs.

Future jobs must be paid within 30 days of the date of the job. If a client’s account should become more than 90 days overdue their account will be shut down and all voice-over work suspended.

Improving

Should a client bring their account to good standing after a 90 day period, all credit privileges will remain revoked. If the client wishes to re-instate recording privileges, all future jobs will require payment in full, in advance.

The Next Step

Next, create ready to send, draft collection letters. You’ll need three total; one each for accounts that are 30, 60 and 90 days past due. Each letter should be cordial but firm in an attempt to collect a debt. If you’ve never seen a collection letter search for samples online and check Microsoft’s template website for examples.

Once your drafts are complete you will need to set aside about two hours a month to review all the outstanding accounts in your billing system. Start with 30 day past due accounts.

This letter should be the mildest as it is a reminder; perhaps they forgot to pay or the original invoice was lost. Send this letter via email and attach a copy of the original invoice for your client’s convenience.

Worsening Situation?

Then move to the 60 day past due accounts and repeat the process. This letter should be a little more forceful. Lastly come the 90 day past due accounts. First send the letter stating that their voice-over account has been shut down after two prior attempts to collect. This letter should be sent via certified mail.

From that point forward 90 day past due clients should be called and email at least once per week until the issue is resolved.

After six months of attempting to collect a debt you will need to make a decision; either, turn the account over to an outside collection company or attorney, or write it off as bad debt on your taxes.

Writing Off Debt

Writing it off is usually the better option as further collection attempts will only cost you more time and money and aggravation. You’ve lost enough of both by this point.

Depending on how large your database of voice-over clients is, you might want to consider outsourcing your collections all together.

Getting a Voiceover Agent

92% of the voice-over talent said have an outstanding demo.

Research the standards for demos in the genres you plan to create them in. Use top quality national copy that is customized for your voice. Do not self direct; rely on the expert skills of a trained coach. Do not self produce. Hire a skilled producer who is known for their work on voice-over demos.

84% of the voice-over talent said have a great resume of coaches and instructors.

Having had the right teachers speaks to your ability beyond the highly produced demo. Each coach should have a clear area of expertise. One coach may not be all you need. Many talent find that training with a variety of coaches helps them to fast track their goal of landing a big agent.

75% of the voice-over talent said have a great referral.

It’s important to have friends. Other voice-over talent are not only a wealth of hints and advice but they may be your golden ticket to a high powered agent. But choose wisely; a referral needs to be someone the agent works with and respects.

Voiceover Marketing is Crucial

One of the greatest myths in the voiceover industry is that all it takes to be successful and “make it big” is get on a major agent’s roster. There is a lot to be said for working with a well-known and reputable agent but, an agent is not where the buck stops. The most successful voice artists are those who actively employ agent-driven marketing as well as their own.

A lot of talent rest on their laurel’s and say “I’ve made it now that I’ve got an agent! I never have to look for work again.” Voice Artists who fall into the trap of believing their agents mean they don’t have to get their own work are living in a fantasy world.

The Truth

Agents do create and distribute marketing materials using a variety of the latest technologies to reach industry professionals who might hire you. These marketing efforts are not usually specific to any one talent on the agent’s roster. These efforts exist to bolster the agency as a whole. This is why individual marketing is critical.

Every Voice Artist should take steps on their own to bring attention to their unique skills and abilities with or without an agent! Working in conjunction with and communicating with your agent is crucial to get the best results.

In most cases your agent will even offer their advice when it comes to creating the best possible presentation, and why wouldn’t they? Any marketing you do benefits you both!

The Plan

If you don’t have a marketing plan, there’s no time like the present. Instead of putting unnecessary pressure on your agent to be the sole source for new clients, try taking a more pro-active route.

Direct mail campaigns, website advertising, newsletter blasts and blogs are all proven and effective ways to promote your voice. Set aside a small percentage of your earnings for a marketing budget to help you accumulate the funds needed.

Then consult your agent, a voiceover marketing expert and other voice talent about where your money is best invested. Don’t try to blanket an industry; chose proven, targeted methods. If your material is well presented and you give your marketing campaign time to work – it will work!

Can I have a Career as a Voiceover Artist too?

Every week we get many people calling or emailing for advice on a voiceover career, so I thought it worth posting this.

So how do you become a voiceover artist? How do you get to be as good as the people who do voice-overs for radio stations and provide the voices of so many commercials?

Well do you know who they are and what they do? Why do you want to become one? Why do you think you can do it as well or better?

Things for you to do and think about. What you need to do first?

Get involved with your local hospital radio station. It will give you technical experience, experience in front of the microphone: everything you will need to give you a thorough grounding in using your voice.

Do you have a local theatre group or amateur dramatic society? Find them and volunteer, voiceover work IS ACTING!!! Even the simplest voice over requires performance skills.

Do you have a mobile phone? Change the voice mail message on it every day, try to impress people with it. Make a note of what works for your voice-over and what doesn't.

Find someone to whom you can regularly read a story. If you're good at characters, well a good story will give you plenty of opportunity to prove it.

Do you want to go on a course and get some professional voiceover training? They'll teach you how to get the best out of your voice.

Enthusiasm is great and it will get you through the tough times, but a space shuttle pilot got to sit in his seat through a combination of training, experience, dedication, enthusiasm and hard work now you must do the same.

I suspect like most people keen to follow a career in voice-over work you would like to phone someone up tomorrow morning and be paid to voice something for them tomorrow afternoon. I've never known that happen for anyone. Now it's time for you to put in the work.

A good, clever or flexible voice is only rung one on a very long ladder. Imagine I am a producer and you need to give me a reason why I should use you in preference to someone else, what would you say? You can't say good voice, good impressions, good at accents; the other guy has got that already.

Work in the voiceover industry can be feast or famine and in the early days it will be thin on the ground, you just need to keep telling people that you are out there. Remember it is not a salaried job so if you don't work, you don't earn. There can be travel involved depending on what voiceover work you are doing.

With the right equipment it is possible to work from home but you will need to find the space for an office and voice-over booth. You can set yourself up for about £4,000. You will need to buy at least one computer and printer, an ISDN codec, editing software (eg Pro Tools or Adobe Audition), Microsoft Office and a decent microphone (Neumann are the best by far but very expensive).

Using ISDN technology you can be accessed live from around the world; most local radio commercial voiceovers are recorded this way. If you are working alone from home (especially without an agent) you will need the drive and determination to succeed, as well as being your own IT expert, accountant, office manager and marketing manager. Just having "a good voice" is not nearly enough.

You will then need to build up your voice-over contacts book, market yourself using the internet, the phone and email. It is possible to break in, and there are lots of people who will give you a first chance, but if you try before you are ready you could very easily blow it. Producers of voiceovers talk to one another so your first session could also be your last.

Practice reading aloud, record yourself, listen to voice-overs on TV, radio, film and ask yourself why they are good or bad. Could you have done better?

BigFish Media are happy to produce your voice-over showreel and put it onto CD for you. Please contact us for details. Any demo longer than a minute is too long. What are you going to put on it? That's up to you, but before you decide, get advice from the experts.

Good luck with your voiceover career!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Business News from Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining

Here is the first of what I hope will be regular contributions from BigFish Media Voiceover Artist Sasha Twining:

SNOW JOKE
It seems that it’s all about the snow this week. While many of us are shivering inside and wondering how to get to work, some canny traders are cashing in. A quick check on eBay reveals a £12.99 plastic sledge on offer with 24 bids, for over £50! Great fun if you can get your hands on it, but you have to wonder just who is being taken for a (slippery) ride.

EXTRA CROUTONS
Soup, glorious soup. We’ve been loving the hot stuff in this weather. The big four supermarkets have revealed sales are up by between 50 and 80%. Tesco has claimed that in the next ten days they will have sold enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.

A VIRGIN ON THE HIGH STREET
There’s a new face on the high street, and it wants your cash. Virgin has bought the right to offer savings accounts and mortages by snapping up the little known Church House Trust Bank for £12million. The suggestion is that they may now bid for some of the Lloyds and RBS branches which have to be sold off.

FROZEN OUT?
We’ve seen a case of David and Goliath this week, with the people of Iceland convincing their president to veto a law that would have paid back the UK, after the collapse of Icesave. Around 200,000 savers lost their money and were compensated by our government. Now, Gordon Brown wants his cash back, but he may have a fight on his hands. The matter is being put to a referendum in Iceland next month.

(CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION
It was the first week back at work after the Christmas break for many of us, but it seems we weren’t champing at the bit. A new survey claimed a third feel undervalued and unappreciated during the recession, and a quarter of us are seriously thinking of looking for a new job. Maybe it’s not just the bad weather that’s responsible for the empty chairs in the office.

Sasha Twining is LBC 97.3's Business Correspondent. You can hear her Monday-Friday between 4 and 7pm on the James Whale Programme.

Wise words for the voiceover business

Wise words for the voiceover business - or any business for that matter. I can't remember where I found this or who wrote it.


It is unwise to pay too much but it’s unwise to pay too little.

When you pay too much you lose a little money that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was not capable of doing the thing you bought it to do.

The common law of business prohibits paying a little and getting a lot.

It can’t be done.

If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run.

And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Being considerate pays off

Sometimes finding work when you are self-employed can come from the most unexpected sources.

Through a strategy of a good new website, advertising using Google Adwords and a great guy who does most of our seach engine optimisation work (to get the website listed high up on the google free - or organic - listings), BigFish Media is now proudly on page one. It's very rewarding and has taken most of last year to acheive.

It is because of all these things that clients find our voiceover services. However, a great source of new unexpected work came through a most peculiar route: My parnter had his hotmail account hacked and lost all of his contacts and emails. All of his contacts were then emailed with a link which threatened to do the same thing to them.

So, being the nice guy I am, I emailed all the contacts to tell them to ignore the email and delete it. One of them then returned the email offering me some lucrative presentation training work with an international law firm.

Funny old world eh?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Richard Cartridge - TV Voiceover Star!

Even during the Christmas break, we weren't really having that much of a break: BigFish Media's Richard Cartridge sounded fabulously menacing as the voiceover for "Review of the Decade" on BBC1's Football Focus on Saturday 2nd January. If you didn't see it, catch it on the BBC's i-player.

Congratulations too, to Peter Ferris who can now be heard reading the news for Classic FM as well as London's LBC 97.3.

Ricky Salmon is working as a coach, trainer and facilitator for International Law Firm Hammonds LLP in London and Oxford.

Ricky Salmon is the voiceover for a new TV commercial for Shoreditch Town Hall.

Sara Starling is the new voiceover for an internet ad for X-box.

Ricky Salmon has recorded the voiceover for a new advert for mobilephones2go on Afan FM.

Ricky Salmon is the voiceover artist for a new batch of web videos for Cosmos Holidays.